February 21, 2021
Piano Songs & Fantasies
“A thoroughly satisfying and moving musical experience”
— The Thomasville Times, NC
William Chapman Nyaho
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
Fantasy in C Minor, K. 475
Un rêve en mer, op. 28
Florence Beatrice Price:
Intermezzo in E-flat Minor, op. 118, no. 6
Breaking Bread with Egbert
Impromptu in G-flat Major, op. 90, no. 3
“(Nyaho’s) effortless technique, splendid rhythmic grasp and fullness of tone allowed his performance to reach great heights…”
— The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA
The piano became established in the 19th century as the solo instrument par excellence, equally capable of intimate expression and virtuosic display. In this program we explore music by some of the best pianist composers, from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Schubert to Margaret Bonds and Florence Beatrice Price and beyond.
Our program opens with a fantasy by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the first great keyboard players to favor the newly developing piano over the well-established harpsichord. In Mozart’s time improvisation was a basic skill of any keyboard player, and his fantasies sound like written down improvisations.
Venezuelan composer Teresa Carreño was one of the most celebrated pianists of the 19th century. She performed at The White House for Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and for Woodrow Wilson in 1916, in addition to concert tours on five continents. Her Un Rêve en Mer (A Dream on the Sea), Op.28, was published in Paris in 1868.
When a symphony by Florence Beatrice Price was premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 it was the first work by an African-American woman ever performed by a major orchestra. Price’s extensive output includes large-scale orchestral and choral works, chamber music, songs, and piano music. She often used Negro Spirituals as source material, just as Franco-Flemish composers of the Renaissance used Gregorian chant and German Baroque composers used Lutheran chorales.
The Intermezzo in E-flat Minor by Johannes Brahms is from a set of six piano pieces composed in 1893 and dedicated to Clara Schumann. Brahms used the opening motif of the Gregorian chant for Dies Irae (“Days of wrath”) from the Mass for the Dead as the thematic basis for this work.
Margaret Bonds, a student and close friend of Florence Beatrice Price, performed Price’s Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1934. Bonds is best known for her association with the poet Langston Hughes, many of whose poems she set to music. However, as with most composers who were not white and male, much of her work is only now beginning to be more widely known.
Hale Smith’s 2009 obituary in the New York Times states celebrated him for breaking down the borders between Classical and Jazz. As a teenager Smith met the great Duke Ellington who believed that the best music is “beyond category.” A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, Dr. Smith worked as a Jazz arranger in addition to composing chamber music, orchestral works, and scores for theater, film, and television.
Franz Schubert was best known in his own time as a composer of popular songs. It was only after his death that his large-scale symphonic and chamber works came to light. The Impromptu in G-flat Major, composed late in the composer’s short life and published posthumously, is a lyrical song without words.